March 29, 2012

Book Versus Movie: Written by David

I recently had the pleasure of watching The Hunger Games movie, and while you might be afraid of some sort of review or spoiler, I'm not going to give you either. Unless someone wants to pay me to do so in which case I'm broke enough to endorse almost anything. But not Kenny G.

What I am going to talk about though is what it means as a writer to have your work put into movie or television form. Now, I myself do not have any experience in this, but I have heard a few authors discuss such things and so that's what I will discuss.

As what I suppose we might now call an Indy writer, but really is just an unpaid writer, this isn't an issue that I will probably have to worry about, unless I actually do finish a novel. In fact, it's mainly novelists who will face this problem, since short stories are only turned into movies long after their publication, and usually authors demise. But what does it mean to have your work turned into a movie? Is it selling out?

I suppose there's a variety of ways to view that question. Selling your product isn't necessarily selling out, except to the most anti-pop culture people out there. If they are your audience then selling out probably won't work for you. Keep in mind, that for every blockbuster movie out there that made millions of dollars, there are just as many cult classic that may not generate huge income, but develop a following that often can lead to a life long following. So pick your battles. If you want to go for the biggest market, some things to consider.

Once you hand over those rights, they're generally completely out of your hands. You may see an author's name attached to the screenwriting credits, such as with the hunger games, but don't let it fool you. Technically speaking all an author has to do is look at the script to get their name on there, and if you think hollywood is going to say "I see your point on page 7, line 3, that doesn't work at all. We'll rework the whole script to fulfill your vision" not at all. You may have also noticed that the Hunger Games was produced by the author as well. Money will always trump artist.

Again though, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The big or small screen is a way different monster from writing that book. You may not want to have any hand in it at all. You may not even have a choice!

But enough about the hypothetical involvement. Is it a good thing if your work is picked up for the screen?

Jonathan Mayberry, a local writer, stopped in to visit my children's writing class at Arcadia and he talked to us about some friends of his who had their works adapted for television, mainly the Sooki Stackhouse novels, and the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series. I asked what many of you might have asked in the same situation. How did these authors feel having their works adapted where they had no control over how things changed between book and screen?

His response: They loved it! Huge paycheck aside, which as a writer is always nice, he went on to tell me that from the creation of these series, the authors actually saw an increase in their readership. Because let's not forget what people see right in the opening credits of any adaptation.

Based on ___________ by _____________

Now, this is probably a hypothetical situation that many of us will never face, but seeing The Hunger Games reminded me of all of this. And hopefully you've found it entertaining as well.

Shameless self promotion time, I recently began an online project titled "The Jovial Brittanians," an experiment in online publishing similar to the weekly web-comic format. Check it out if you're a D&D fan like myself or want to see an interesting new experiment in wirting. You can find it here at

David is, among other things, unpaid for his weekly ramblings about whatever happens to be on his mind. He has been published enough times to make the claim he's been published, and is one of the editors of the great magazine Obsession Literary Magazine.

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